By Jason KUROSU
A Sunland resident has submitted a concept for an alternate route for the state’s divisive High Speed Rail Project, hoping to add new ideas for the Palmdale to Burbank section of the route, which has local residents concerned over impacts to the environment and the possibility of eminent domain.
Simon Higgs proposed an E5 route to the High Speed Rail Authority in December, a route which would serve as an alternative to the currently proposed E1, E2 and E3 routes which comprise the East Corridor, utilizing the former K-Mart at 8040 Foothill Blvd. as an underground station for both high speed rail and Metrolink.
The E5 route would be entirely underground and would not cross the Tujunga Wash, avoiding noise pollution and environmental impacts, according to Higgs.
“If you draw a straight line from Burbank to Palmdale, this is the shortest route,” said Higgs, who feels that his proposal would be a “win-win” for both high speed rail and the community at large.
The E5 route is farther east than the currently proposed East Corridor routes but would still travel through the Angeles National Forest, though entirely underground. The train would connect with a Sunland station between Palmdale and the Burbank Airport station, at 8040 Foothill Blvd.
The 11-acre property was to be converted into a Home Depot but has been vacant since 2004. Home Depot has since abandoned plans to open a store at the location, but Higgs says the lease may keep any developments of any kind from happening until the year 2026.
However, Higgs believes that the site could be converted into something “which would actually be beneficial to the community.”
Modeled after the McAllen Public Library in Texas, Higgs’ vision of the underground station would feature a library, computer labs, an art gallery, meeting room space, as well as a viable location for the Sunland and Tujunga post offices. The McAllen Library itself was built from the remnants of a former Walmart and is now the largest single floor library in the United States. Higgs sees similar potential for the former K-Mart as a library and community center.
So far, Higgs has not received word from the High Speed Rail Authority regarding his proposal, but hopes that he will at least receive feedback from local residents.
To explore Higgs’ E5 proposal in further detail, visit his website at https://sites.google.com/site/sunlandstation/.